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January 4, 2016

Have you ever wondered if the other guy gets a better deal than you do? Why do you suppose some stores grow so quickly while you struggle to keep the bills paid?

There are many factors that cause some businesses to grow faster than others, such as a well-negotiated lease, a great location or having been well-financed from the beginning. Some of these factors may or may not affect your business. Even if you have none of these advantages, you can still beat the odds by creating a business plan and then following it.

Since we are into a new year, now would be an excellent time to develop a yearlong event and promotional calendar. The best way to maximize your profits is to plan ahead. If the distributors or vendors that you buy from know what your promotional plans are for the coming months, they will all be more likely to participate with discounts or in other ways that you define.

As I have mentioned in other articles, I and my colleagues call on hundreds of retail pet stores every year to ask owners and managers what they do to promote their business in their marketplace. Often, we ask them what they think are the most important components to growing their business. The top three answers they give are:

1. Professionally designed street signage

2. Competitive pricing

3. Customer service

While I think all three of these components are obviously important, competitive pricing is the hardest to deal with because it is the biggest factor between profit and loss, and success and failure. With the growth of online shopping and the proliferation of discount stores, it becomes more of a struggle every year to be competitive.  With that in mind, it should be your mission to work with your suppliers to plan events and promotions well in advance.

Creating a calendar for the whole year will do two things:

First, it will allow you to allocate resources to manage events, such as adoption days or flea and tick dip days—all of which take advance planning. You could even try inviting the local media outlet to attend and write a piece on your Santa Photo Day or other special event. Believe it or not, they are always looking for human interest events to offset all that bad news they are always reporting.

The second advantage to planning ahead is that you are more likely to get what you want. For example, when approaching your distributors about supplies you need for your event, they may be able to order what you need during their normal order cycle if they know what you want in advance. This allows them to take advantage of vendor discounts and pass extra savings on to you. Also, if you have a calendar developed with your implementation plan, you can contact manufacturers directly to explain your plans and get their help maximizing distributor discounts.

Having been a manufacturer’s rep for 25 years, and a distributor buyer before that, I think I can safely say that most manufacturers will be happy to work through their distributors to help any retailer interested in promoting their products. They would probably go out of their way to sweeten the deal by offering a discount through their distributor, and door prizes or added value incentives are also possibilities.

And then there are the vendors that retailers buy from directly. Just because you are buying direct, does not mean you cannot negotiate an extra discount. Direct seller vendors want you to keep buying from them and will be sensitive about promotional requests from established retailers.

When you are developing the calendar, pick out the vendors that you already do volume with or those that you would like to be doing better with and contact them. Also let your distributor salesperson know what your plans are, as they will be your greatest asset and will look out for you as well as for their sales numbers.

Remember: if you do not ask, the answer will invariably be “no.” Stop wondering if the other guy is getting a better deal than you are—be the other guy.

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